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Plan a Wilderness Experience to the Sylvania Recreation Area this Summer

Up North Action

Few areas compare to the Sylvania Wilderness and Sylvania Recreation Area, located near Watersmeet, Michigan, and part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

The 18,327-acre wilderness offers an outstanding experience for those who want to camp, fish, hike, view wildlife, canoe, or enjoy the solitude of a wilderness experience. For those needing a guiding hand, there are outfitters in surrounding towns.

Sylvania’s old-growth forest includes record-size red and white pines, some of them dating back 400 years! While exploring Sylvania, you might see threatened or endangered plants, birds, and animals, such as rare orchids, along with bald eagles, loons, and osprey.

The 34 named lakes in the Sylvania are clear, deep, and unspoiled. Sand beaches that surround some are perfect places for a rest break. Visitors can fish (non-motorized boats only) for native trout, bass, walleye, panfish, and pike. Only artificial lures may be used, and all bass, some of which reach impressive proportions, must be released.

Camping opportunities abound. Sylvania Wilderness Backcountry Camp is not a physical campground located at one location. A well-maintained trail system that wanders through the giant trees provides access to the 50 individual primitive camping sites located in 29 designated locations along eight lakes.

Camping is by permit only. Each campsite is equipped with a campfire ring, tent pad, and wilderness latrine. Permits must be reserved through Reserve America online at recreation.gov. Reservations can also be made by calling 1-877-444-6777.

On the northern border of the Wilderness, the Sylvania Recreation Area offers a major trailhead, 48 drive-in campsites, potable water, showers, and flush toilets.

A good entry point for a hiking adventure is just north across the Michigan border from Land O’ Lakes, off Fisher Road. Trails will take you past Deer Island Lake, Crooked Lake, and Mountain Lake. You can take side trips to take in the beautiful views at High Lake, Cub Lake, and West Bear Lake.

Otherwise, from Watersmeet, go west on U.S. 2 for 3.5 miles and turn left on GCR 535. Travel approximately 3 miles to the Entrance Station of the Sylvania Wilderness.

More information is available at the Ottawa National Forest Visitor Center, located at the intersection of Highway 45 and US-2 in Watersmeet. Open year-round, it offers a unique display of what the Ottawa National Forest is all about.

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